Fires in Unoccupied or Derelict Buildings: The Importance of Premises Assessments

Fires in Unoccupied or Derelict Buildings: The Importance of Premises Assessments

During the summer holidays, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sees a rise in fires within unoccupied or derelict buildings. To combat this, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre is urging premises owners to conduct regular security premises assessments.


While unoccupied or derelict buildings may seem of little value to their owners if appropriate and suitable safety and security measures are not implemented, they can pose a serious risk to properties around them and those who may enter them illegally, such as young people or homeless persons.

Other unoccupied or derelict buildings and buildings under construction, such as new developments or as renovation projects can be of significant value and their owners should protect them from by taking adequate security measures.

Dealing with fires in such properties not only puts SFRS crews and members of the public at risk but also impacts on the operational resilience of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service tying up crews and valuable operational resources at incidents. It is irresponsible for building owners not to consider implementing safety and security measures to prevent damage to their property, surrounding properties and endangerment to life.

SFRS Watch Manager Gary Wood, seconded fire officer to the SBRC said:

 “The school Summer holiday period has just begun. We are asking that during the holiday period everyone who lives, works or regularly passes near to an unoccupied or derelict building becomes even more observant than normal and if they notice anything suspicious, different or unusual to contact the Police. We would also encourage parents to be aware of where their children are and what they are doing during the summer break. To children these buildings can be seen as playground’s, but young people do not understand the very real danger they may be putting themselves in”.

“Derelict buildings can pose a number of difficult operational challenges for firefighters. By their very nature, we cannot immediately establish what state of repair or disrepair the building is in. There may have been acts of vandalism committed to the fabric of the building. This presents a number of hazards to our crews such as risks of structural collapse and exposure to electricity and gas services. Floorboards may be missing, and unstable staircases may be present within. The pace of fire spread within a derelict building can be much quicker and progress further than would be normally expected due to fire safety measures such as fire and smoke control doors having been removed or damaged. Breaches in fire resistant compartmentation may also exist and any automatic fire alarm detection system previously used may have been removed or disabled. In some circumstances there may also be unidentified dangerous substances left behind or dumped inside.”

“At an incident involving a derelict building the Fire and Rescue Service may decide that unless there is an immediate threat to life present or it is reported that there may be unknown persons within that it is simply too dangerous to commit firefighters into the building. But the flipside to that especially during school summer holiday time when children may be tempted to enter these buildings is it can sometimes be impossible to establish if anyone is still inside”

Owners of unoccupied or derelict buildings have a legal responsibility to ensure that the building and/or site is secure from entry by unauthorised persons. If you own an unoccupied or derelict building, please ensure regular checks are made on the security and condition of the property to ensure unauthorised access is not present.

SFRS work in partnership with Police Scotland to reduce deliberate fire raising within buildings such as these and will continue to do so to mitigate risks to our crews and members of the public.

If you own a derelict building or would just like to strengthen the physical security of your premises, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre can deliver physical premises assessments and reviews. Please contact us to find out more.

Member Log-In

Welcome to the SBRC Members Lounge, login details will be issued to members in due course.

Forgot password?